The Story of Zelda: Link’s Awakening | Gaming Historian

The Story of Zelda: Link’s Awakening | Gaming Historian

– [Narrator] This episode
of The Gaming Historian
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Stay tuned until the end of the video
for more information.
On November 21st, 1991,
exactly one year after the launch
of their Super Famicom system,
Nintendo released one of their
most ambitious games to date:
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Zelda creator Shigeru
Miyamoto wanted to return
to the series’ roots and
incorporate ideas that
weren’t possible in the first game.
What resulted was the biggest
Legend of Zelda game yet.
It also established several series norms.
The Master Sword, spin attacks,
multiple worlds to explore.
By all accounts, A Link to
the Past was a resounding
success for the developers,
for Nintendo, and for players.
But one man wasn’t satisfied:
Director Takashi Tezuka.
A graduate of The Osaka
University of Arts,
Tezuka had been at Nintendo since 1984,
working right alongside Shigeru Miyamoto
on Super Mario Brothers
and The Legend of Zelda.
He joined the Link to the Past team
at Nintendo’s Entertainment
Analysis & Development
division halfway through development,
and was brought on as the game’s director.
Tezuka and his team wanted
to try some new ideas,
such as the ability to
unequip the master sword.
This would allow players
to combine two items
for new effects.
But producer Shigeru
Miyamoto shot down the idea.
He wanted the hero, Link, to
always have his sword equipped.
But Takashi Tezuka hated
to leave great ideas
on the cutting room floor.
After the Legend of Zelda: A
Link to the Past was complete,
Tezuka had a strong desire to do more.
One day, after hours,
Tezuka noticed programmer Kazuaki Morita
messing around with a
Game Boy Development Kit.
Along with the new 16-bit Super Famicom,
Nintendo had also recently
introduced the Game Boy,
an 8-bit handheld system.
Morita was experimenting
with what could be done
on the new handheld.
To Tezuka’s surprise,
Morita was trying to recreate
something like a Zelda game.
There were no official plans
to bring the Zelda series
to the Game Boy.
Morita was simply having fun with it.
But Tezuka was intrigued,
and decided to join in on
the unofficial project.
If nothing else, it
was a chance to fulfill
his desire to do more with Zelda.
Soon, other members
of Nintendo’s Entertainment
Analysis & Development
division joined in.
Together, they formed an
unofficial after school club
for the passion project.
Members of the club did regular
work during normal hours,
then worked on the secret
Zelda game after hours.
It was the first time
any of them had tried
to make a Game Boy game.
Despite their lack of
experience, the black and white
Zelda adventure began to look impressive.
In fact, it was so impressive
that Takashi Tezuka
formally pitched The Legend of Zelda
for the Game Boy to upper management.
The executives approved,
and gave the dev team
another Game Boy development
kit to help make the game.
At that time, the plan was to simply port
A Link to the Past to the Game Boy.
But over time, Tezuka and the
team saw it as an opportunity
to try something new, and
revive some of the ideas
that got nixxed when they
were making Link to the Past.
Their game quickly formed
its own, new identity,
thanks largely to the fact
that the game was a passion project.
And it was a passion
project that the higher
ups at Nintendo didn’t scrutinize.
Zelda on the Game Boy was
the first game in the series
where Zelda creator Shigeru
Miyamoto didn’t have input.
According to Tezuka, Miyamoto was quote
“busy with something and
didn’t pay us much mind.”
With fresh ideas and the freedom
to go off the beaten path,
Tezuka and his team created
a new land to explore.
One without the usual suspects:
There would be no
Princess Zelda, no Ganon,
no Hyrule, or Triforce.
At the time, Tezuka was
a huge fan of Twin Peaks,
a popular TV show.
Twin Peaks was notable
for its unique characters
and supernatural elements,
including a heavy emphasis on dreams.
Tezuka requested his staff
come up with something equally
off-beat for their new game:
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
That responsibility fell
into the hands of two men:
Kensuke Tanabe & Yoshiaki Koizumi.
Tanabe had previously worked
on Super Mario Brothers 2,
Super Mario Brothers 3,
and A Link to the Past.
He always had the idea of a
story where an egg hatches
on a mountaintop, ending the world.
With Link’s Awakening, he was finally able
to use his unique idea.
Yoshiaki Koizumi was
relatively new to Nintendo,
and originally wanted
to be a film director.
But after college, he
took a job at Nintendo,
hoping to bring his passion
of filmmaking to video games.
Koizumi’s first job was
to do the art, layout,
and writing for the
Link to the Past manual.
Link’s Awakening was his first
experience with story design.
His film background came in handy.
Koizumi took his own ideas,
drew inspiration from Twin Peaks,
and ultimately created a unique
main story that was more detailed
than previous Zelda games.
Koizumi’s story picks up where
A Link to the Past left off.
After defeating Ganon,
Link sets off for new lands
to continue training, in
case evil returns to Hyrule.
But on his way back home,
his small ship encounters
a massive storm.
Link washes ashore on
Koholint Island, where a local
named Marin takes him to
her village to recover.
While trying to retrieve his sword,
Link meets a mysterious owl,
who informs him that the only
way to leave Koholint Island
is to wake the Wind Fish,
who sleeps in a giant egg
on the top of a mountain.
Link must explore the island and retrieve
eight musical instruments
that are required
to wake the Wind Fish.
But along the way, he
discovers a shocking prophecy:
Koholint Island is simply
a dream of the Wind Fish.
If the Wind Fish is awakened, the island
and all of its inhabitants will disappear.
Unsure if the prophecy is true,
Link continues his journey
to wake the Wind Fish
and return to Hyrule.
Link’s Awakening was
the first story-driven
game in the Zelda series.
Previous games in the
series did have stories,
but felt more shallow, and
not as important or original.
Link’s Awakening featured
several characters
with their own unique
personalities and story arch.
The reveal that Koholint
Island is just part
of the Wind Fishes dream was a huge twist,
and completely changed
the tone of the game.
Not only was the story new and different,
so were some gameplay elements.
Tezuka and his team at Nintendo’s
Entertainment Analysis
& Development division
were able to get creative.
Some became staples in the Zelda series.
Programmer Kazuaki Morita loved fishing,
and added a fishing mini-game
in the island village.
It was a first for the Zelda series,
and has reappeared in just
about every subsequent game.
Writer Kensuke Tanabe came up with idea
of a trading sequence side quest.
Link would find items on Koholint Island
and trade them with villagers,
eventually being rewarded
with a powerful item.
The team also implemented
the ability to combine items,
an idea that was abandoned
from Link to the Past.
Link could unequip his sword
and use a bomb with a bow
and arrow, allowing him
to shoot bomb arrows.
The creativity didn’t stop there.
With a completely new story and world,
Tezuka and his staff saw
an opportunity to sneak
some of their favorite Nintendo
characters into the game:
Chain chomps, goombas,
Mr. Wright from SimCity,
Luigi, Yoshi, Pirahna plants,
princess peach, shy guys,
Wart from Super Mario Brothers 2,
Richard from The Frog
for Whom the Bell Tolls,
and even Kirby.
Said Takashi Tezuka “It
was like we were making
“a parody of Zelda.”
Some dungeons even contain
side scrolling areas,
similar to a Super Mario Bros game.
Director Takashi Tezuka
admits that he can’t remember
if they ever got permission
to use these easter eggs.
He said it was for the Game Boy system,
so we thought oh, it’ll be fine.
While these new gameplay
elements were exciting,
the dev team also stayed
true to the Zelda formula.
Players had to explore
eight dungeons and collect
items to finish the game.
Backing the game was a
beautiful soundtrack composed
by two women, Kozue
Ishikawa and Minako Hamano.
It was the first game
they had ever worked on.
Many of the tracks, like
The Ballad of the Wind Fish,
became classic Zelda tunes.
Additional sound effects were
provided by Kazumi Totaka,
famous for the secret song
he likes to hide in games.
Of course, he found a way to hide the tune
in Link’s Awakening as well.
(bouncy electronic music)
The result of so much
freedom and creativity
was a Zelda game unlike any other.
The development team loved
what they were doing,
and it showed.
They also weren’t afraid
to try new things.
That showed as well.
Koholint Island was a mysterious
land filled with secrets,
characters, and plenty of
caves and dungeons to explore.
The intriguing storyline
motivated the player to unravel
the mystery of the Wind
Fish and Koholint Island.
Ultimately, even Shigeru
Miyamoto was impressed
with the game.
He joined the team at the
end of development as a game
tester and provided feedback
for the final touches.
(dramatic bouncy music)
“So, how good is the The Legend
of Zelda: Link’s Awakening?
“As good as a Game Boy program gets.”
Dennis Lynch, Chicago Tribune.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s
Awakening was released
on June 6, 1993 in Japan,
August 1993 in North America,
and December 1993 in Europe.
It received rave reviews.
Players loved that a full-blown Zelda game
was on the Game Boy and it
didn’t feel like Nintendo
made any sacrifices to make it happen.
Nintendo Magazine System raved,
“Link’s Awakening sets a new
standard for the Game Boy.”
To promote the release in North America,
Nintendo of America put on
the Zelda Whistle-Stop Tour.
18 participants, divided into professional
and amateur categories,
boarded a train in New York,
heading toward Seattle.
The person to beat Link’s
Awakening the fastest
would win $1,000 for the
charity of their choice.
Nintendo also featured the
game in their 50th issue
of Nintendo Power.
The iconic cover featured
the mysterious owl
of Koholint Island,
along with Link’s sword.
In 1998, Nintendo released
the Game Boy Color,
a smaller, colorful
update to the Game Boy.
For that system, Nintendo
revisited the game
and released The Legend of
Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX.
The updated game added
color to Koholint Island
and an exclusive dungeon.
Nintendo also added compatibility
with another new device,
the Game Boy Printer.
For 20 years, Link’s Awakening
was fondly remembered,
but never fully revisited.
But in 2019, Nintendo surprised
everyone by announcing
that the The Legend of
Zelda: Link’s Awakening
was being remade for the Nintendo Switch.
In total, The Legend of
Zelda: Link’s Awakening
and Link’s Awakening DX sold
more than 3.5 million copies,
making it the 15th best selling
Game Boy game of all time.
For those who played Link’s Awakening,
it’s easy to understand
why the game is so special.
The Legend of Zelda games
tend to stick to a specific
formula: Go through dungeons,
collect items, defeat Ganon,
and save Princess Zelda.
But Nintendo created something
special by mixing things up.
Eiji Aonuma, current series producer
for The Legend of Zelda, has
said that Link’s Awakening
is “the quintessential
isometric Zelda game.”
Link’s Awakening is considered
one of the best games
in the series.
An impressive feat,
considering it was the first
Zelda game for a handheld system.
In their article on Zelda
games ranked worst to best,
Kotaku listed Link’s
Awakening at number three.
Games Radar has it at number four.
And Nintendo Life lists it at number six.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s
Awakening un-shackled
the developers at Nintendo
and allowed them to try
new things with the series.
This influenced future Zelda titles.
Aonuma said “I’m certain it
was a breakthrough element
“in the series.
“If we had proceeded from
A Link to the Past straight
“to Ocarina of Time without
Link’s Awakening in between,
“Ocarina would have been different.”
But the biggest reason
people like the game
is that it was clearly a labor of love.
Said Takashi Tezuka “I
remember it was fun working
“on it and when it was over,
I remember us talking to
“each other about how fun it was.”
That’s all for this episode
of The Gaming Historian,
thanks for watching.
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Thank you.
(fun bouncy music)

100 thoughts on “The Story of Zelda: Link’s Awakening | Gaming Historian”

  1. When Nintendo recently announced they were remaking Link's Awakening for the Switch, I was SO EXCITED. It's one of my favorite Game Boy games AND one of my favorite Zelda games. It's seriously impressive what they were able to create. By going off the beaten path and trying new things, Nintendo was able to set a new standard for the Zelda franchise.

    By the way, if you haven't already, give me a follow on Twitch at ! I record all of my gameplay footage while streaming. I talk about the creative process and it's great to have the chat around to help me get through games and show me secrets.

    Hope you enjoy the new video!

  2. I love it ! I especially remember the soundtrack, best chiptune soundtrack ever for me! Also loved the trading system

  3. I haven't played Links Awakening yet so im gonna try to play all three from the colourless to the switch remake

  4. meh maybe i'll pick it for the switch. maybe not. im not much into Zelda games. in fact ive never played a single one

  5. I never liked the Zelda series and bought a game for the 3DS… I forget what it was, I think ocarina. I didn't like it – thought it was too slow paced. When I realized how much hype is surrounding LOTP for the Switch (and some research), I said I should get this game. I'm hopeful I'll like it.

  6. I think it’s funny how you cite a Kotaku ranking as if that means something 😂. Other than that great video.

  7. Irrelevant to the video but I have to say putting "Gaming Historian" in the title was the right move, once I saw that I was instantly interested in this video and channel

  8. Watching this video in 2019, and until now I never knew you could use the Bow with Bombs to shoot exploding arrows!

  9. Wow so glad you did this, always loved this game and found it so addicting and impressive to come out with such limited hardware. so cool to know how it started

  10. A well made video from you once again, Gaming Historian. You had two sections in it which in my opinion sum up pretty well the game's greatness:

    "Previous games in the series did have stories, but felt more shallow and not as important or original. Link's Awakening featured several characters with their own unique personalities and story arc."

    "The Legend of Zelda games tend to stick to a specific formula: go through dungeons, collect items, defeat Ganon, and save princess Zelda. But Nintendo created something special by mixing things up."

    I have never been that much of The Legend of Zelda fan myself, but for those reasons I think that Link's Awakening DX is not only the best game in the series, but also one of the best games for Game Boy.

    Also, I had no idea that the game will be re-made for Switch. Thank you for letting me know.

  11. I started playing this game but did not appreciate it as much as other Zelda games so I didn't finished it… until now. This is so cool.

  12. That was great! Love hearing people enjoy game development, especially with all the current news.

    Love your channel! Keep up the great work!

  13. OUTSTANDING video. Thank you for the information and insight. I learned a lot about one of my favorite childhood games.

  14. I've always read that it started as a port of the original Zelda, in the vein of Mario Bros DX, but the sprites were too large. I guess that's bogus.

  15. Excellent video as always GH. Please, please, please do a history on Ocarina of Time.
    IMHO best N64 game made and probably one of the greatest games ever made period.

    stop spreading VPN safety lies..if you really knew what a vpn is, you'd never advertise it as something safe

  17. Dude, do a video talking about Alundra.

    Its now clear to me how a rip off that game is of Link's awakening :O

  18. Link's awakening seem to have same reflection to Alttp as Majora's Mask has for OoT. In both Awakening and Majora, you're more on quest for people or some more personal goal, not that much for generic "save the world" motif. I have heard that it is one aspect of story telling where stakes become more interesting when they are made bit more personal rather than so great that one loses grasp of it.

    While Majora was bittersweet overall, ending was kinda happy, whereas Awakening is usually pretty cheery but ending is bittersweet.

  19. One of my favorite games of all time! Great video my friend. You were suggested to me and I see why good job youtube, for suggesting a video and a channel that I will like! 😁 hope you give my content a view a well. I just started a month and a half ago and I’m slowly starting to push forward. Keep that consistency, with my content going! Keep in touch. Great work by the way.

  20. Hello Mr. Gaming Historian. Thank you for this video and past videos, cause you work hard and you should be shown appreciation for what you do. It be awesome if you could link the references or show them in your video. I believe what you say, but I only say it so that you are believable in what you say. Thank you for reading this comment, I wish you success and lots of it, rock on man! 😀

  21. Thank you for that lovely video! What a beatiful game. Can't wait to revisit Koholon Island on the Switch

  22. Thank you for this.
    It's good to listen to history, but it is especially good to hear about my favorite Zelda game! 😁

  23. This is actually my favorite zelda game. Only reason I want a gameboy again is because of Zelda link's awakening

  24. I don't even like Zelda but I would probably play it because of all the hard work they put into it. It's like some cool art. I appreciate someone's hard work and art.

  25. Please an episode about Wario Land series ( especially 2 and 3 ) , so underrated , lovely music from the goddess Kozue Ishikawa.

  26. Great and fascinating video. Awesome title in the Zelda series indeed. So interesting to see where it comes from and what it led to in the end.

  27. Son of a bitch. I don't even play video games. The last system I owned was Super Nintendo and the only games I played much were Donky Kong Country. I have no idea why this channel was recommended to me but I've been binge watching these videos. I have gotten about as much accomplished in the last 3 days that 12 year old video game addict would have.

  28. This game and people's emotions towards it mirror my feelings towards Majora's Mask. Both of these games went off the beaten path and ended up being such emotional adventures. I am so glad that both of them got attention again and I hope that a new generation will happen upon them to learn how amazing their worlds are and what a joy it was to play them.

    Thank you for a great video.

  29. Didn't fully understand the story as a 6yo kid, really appreciated the music, though. Replayed this game at 20yo and was absolutely stunned, how well-written and sad the story is. Amazing game, 10/10 with ease.

  30. The first game I really got into, I only had like 3 but still. Was so happy when parents got me the ac adapter so didn't have to steal ever battery in the house, think they got tired of buying new battery's for the remote ever other day.

  31. This video just flooded me with nostalgia for this game and how good it was, and reminded me that it was being remade and I almost cried. Frantically searching for my Gameboy and cartridge rn.

  32. ocarina of time was my favorite zelda game prior to having play this title, it's THAT good, probably the best zelda game period

  33. Link's Awakening was my first Zelda game that I had the opportunity to beat and 100%. Your videos are SO good. I hope you never stop doing this. You deserve your own goddamn TV Show. Thank you SO much for the hours of content you've given.

  34. As much as I love Ocarina, MM and WW, I prefer the more classic style Zelda games…I can't believe I've never really played 4 of them. I have yet to play Link's Awakening, the 2 Oracle games and Minish Cap. I've heard they are all fantastic…some people argue LA is the best handheld (and possibly over all) Zelda game while others exclaim Minish Cap is the bee's knees. I'm definitely going to pick LA up on the Switch, but I still want to play it on an old GBA SP.

  35. It must have been exciting for Koizumi to be the one to show off the reveal trailer for the Switch remake after working on it's development back in the day.

  36. I still go back and play this on my OG game boy (and pocket). I do need to get another newer version of Nintendo portable but damn they're still just as good and it's still replayable.

  37. 😳wow
    The story in this game is really amazing.
    I played it before but I didn't really pay no mind. I'm not really that into Zelda games because it's confusing and I get lost.

    Im a mario head…lol
    I'll have to go online and hear more on the series

  38. Honestly… a kid I remember playing this game a getting so deep into it. There’s so much to discover. Many puzzles and challenges. A work of art, like many Zelda games

  39. PLEASE! Do one on R.O.T.3 K. Part 2 for SNES or Sega Genisis made by Koei. I love this game and it's very hard to find and expensive. It's like Uncharted Waters by Koei also, hard to find and expensive. Romance of the 3 Kingdoms part 2 is STILL my all time favorite game next to G.T.A. San Andreas (XBOX360).

  40. Link´s Awakening was the very first video game I ever played. From time to time I dust it off and play it through once more. I know the game in and out and I absolutely adore it to this day. There haven´t been many gaming platforms I went through, or many games that I have played since. But I´m sure I can say that this is the best game ever made for the Game Boy and overall it is in my top 5 best games of all time. Hell, I´ll buy the Switch just so I can play the remake!!! And Smash Bros… and BotW… and MK11 😛

  41. My story: When I was a kid, I got stuck in Catfish's Maw… Couldn't figure out WHAT to do… So, I sent Nintendo a letter with three dollars enclosed. They sent me back SO MUCH STUFF that I felt like it was Christmas morning! They gave me stickers, a complete walk through, AND gave me a year's subscription of Nintendo Power. I never got the chance to thank Nintendo for that…YOU GUYS ARE LEGENDS AND MADE MY CHILDHOOD WHOLE!

  42. Just when you thought that you already know everything there is to know about video games, the guy on this channel will surprise you and take you to school. You should start saying your name at the start of your videos for your subscribers. Hats off to you and keep up the good work sir!

  43. My favorite gameboy cartridge without a doubt. I was 6 when it came out so for me it was the most amaizing thing. It was truly a dream to play. Thanks for making this video!

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